Before we begin, lets give some common definitions of leadership. 1.) a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. 2.) a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Both are very similar, but like most things there is always more than one way to define depending on the situation and circumstance associated with the word put into context.
Leaders applying this process by utilizing their leadership skills and knowledge are practicing Process Leadership. Although, we know that we have certain traits that can influence our actions as well. This is called Trait Leadership, in the belief that leaders aren’t simply born but are made and molded by the situations around them. In the chart below we break up the two common types of leadership theories:
There are four main aspects of leadership that work for 99% of all situations. First there is the leader showing an honest understanding of others and having enough esteem and self confidence to firmly grasp who they are, where they came from, what they’ve been through, and most importantly where they are going. The leader’s success is solely dependent on the followers because if you are a leader with no followers who would you lead? Next are the followers obedient an full of hope in that the leader makes the best decisions possible for the followers as a whole. Followers generally have lower self esteem and a lack of motivation, but usually are well educated and hard working people. They look for a leader that understands their needs, emotions, and personality. Communication is the next aspect that is the link between the follower and the leader. With good communication comes organization, efficiency, and effectiveness. This is a big problem with many organizations and businesses that exhibit poor communication and also miss communication that cause many problems big or small, so in short what and how you communicate either builds or harms the relationship between the leader and followers. Finally there is the situation. I can’t stress the importance of taking this aspect as the most important one. You can never be prepared for what life throws at you, but it is how you act when the situation presents itself that determines how well the communication between roles leader and follower works. Note that the situation normally has a greater effect the actions rather than the traits of a leader. This is caused from traits having an impressive stability over a period of time, yet having little consistency across situations (Mischel, 1968).
Dr. Bernard M. Bass, one of the most distinguished Professors at Binghamton University and director of the Center for Leadership studies has published more than four hundred journal articles and twenty-six books concentrating on leadership, behavior, and international management. According to Bass there are three basic ways to explain how people become leaders. These theories summed up are:
Some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles. This is the Trait Theory.
A crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person. This is the Great Events Theory.
People can choose to become leaders. People can learn leadership skills. This is the Transformational or Process Leadership Theory. It is the most widely accepted theory today and the premise on which this guide is based.
Its a common truth that people look for those who will lead. Its not a matter of them thinking that those who lead are any better than anyone else, but rather people want to be guided by those who have a good since of ethical and moral direction. Its always what you do that decides whether or not someone gains respect for you. It does matter if you talk the talk or walk the walk or if your friends with this person or an acquittance of that person. What matters more than anything is your integrity, your honesty, and your actions. These virtues indicate whether you are a trustworthy leader for others to follow no matter what the situation may be.
Leaders, no matter what style or ethical appeals they use, are bound to certain principles. You must know yourself and seek self-improvement not only for you as a leader, but for those who will follow you. Seek to strengthening your attributes and leadership skills. Some of the standard principles are to be technically proficient knowing your job and your followers, to seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions when things go wrong not blaming others, to make sound and timely decisions solving problems, to set the example being a good role model, to know your people and look out for them respecting their importance, to keep your follower informed using good communication and organization, and lastly to use the full capabilities of your organization developing a team spirit and being a team player.
So on a person note, I wish you the best of luck on your path to becoming a great leader. Especially in the United States, there is a large need for motivated, driven, well educated leaders to take this nation out of the decline we are facing. If you have not read my other article “Leadership for Young People” please take a few more minutes to give it a read. I once again want to thank you and wish you good luck in everything that you do, but also to challenge you to go out of your way to do something productive in your community.